Drunken Noodles
Opinions

I tried Veganuary. I failed. I’m going vegan.6 min read

After a record campaign, Veganuary is coming to an end. Going vegan for a month was easier than I anticipated, albeit with some failures. Here’s why I’m continuing down this path.

I’ve been vegetarian all my life. Growing up in a northwestern Indian family in the country’s most vegetarian-friendly state, I’ve never tried – or had the urge to try – meat. But my upbringing also meant my natural diet was heavily based on dairy, and cutting it out after being accustomed to it for the best part of 20 years could naturally not have been easy.

Or so I thought.

I’m never one to partake in monthly trends merely for the sake of it. What’s the point? I’m not drawn to cultural osmosis; I don’t feel like I have to do things purely because other people are doing it.

And that’s where Veganuary comes in. Going vegan for an entire month isn’t something I planned on doing because seemingly everyone was doing it. It was a decision informed by retrospection and moral consciousness.

Making the choice

By the end of December, I realised my diet for the month before had hardly involved any dairy or eggs. I’d already given up honey and milk a while ago, having switched to agave and dairy alternatives (which, annoyingly, can’t legally be marketed as milk per EU legislation, which is why these companies have to get creative with terms like ‘oat drink‘, ‘mylk‘, and, my personal favourite, ‘m*lk‘).

So I’d been subconsciously vegan for a while anyway, and therefore, I challenged myself to go vegan for January. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to be more environmentally conscious. I know, we’re at a point where that can’t be a resolution so much as a basic responsibility. That’s what I’m trying to build towards. It’s staggering that we still have people denying climate change. It’s staggering that we’re not doing more. In that sense, trying to go vegan was almost a no-brainer.

But the environment wasn’t the sole driver of this change for me. Contrary to what I stated above, cultural osmosis did, after all, affect me. My best friend is vegan. And spending so much of our time together intuitively drew me towards the idea of veganism.

However, I needed an incentive. If I was going to go vegan for a month, I needed to know I wasn’t the only one challenging myself. So I made a proposition: I’ll do Veganuary if she does Dry January.

And so we did.

Chilli
Chilli sin carne with salsa and guacamole. Photograph: Anay Mridul

The challenge

I spent Christmas week in Milan. And boy did I eat. My potentially final days as a vegetarian included a beautiful cannolo, incredible pizza, perfect scrambled eggs, infinite amounts of panettone, and a neverending block of Parmigiano.

Yes, it was magical. And no, it doesn’t get any better than that.

After returning to London, I found my appetite had grown substantially, maybe as a result of the previous week. As January rolled around, I kept eating the same amount of food, and the same dishes, which all naturally turned out to be vegan. But I found myself still hungry after every meal. And that’s when I realised what I was missing.

As a vegetarian, I figured my biggest struggle going vegan would be giving up cheese. I absolutely love cheese, and I know most people can relate to that. But I was in for a surprise.

I didn’t miss cheese all that much. Instead, my far, far greater challenge has been searching for vegan desserts. I have a massive sweet tooth, and finding vegan desserts on a student budget is, I discovered, not easy.

I became a grocery nerd. January saw many supermarkets discounting dairy alternatives to milk and yoghurts, in a push to keep up with Veganuary, which saw a record 350,000 sign-ups this year (and that’s just official numbers). I went to a grocery store almost every day, looking for deals on vegan alternatives and desserts. As someone who usually has an inventory of sweet snacks around his room, I found searching for their non-dairy counterparts the most difficult part of Veganuary.

And that’s also where I screwed up.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

⭐ WE DID IT!! 350,000 is record breaking! Now let’s go for legendary!⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ It’s only the 4th of January and already 350,000 people have signed up through our website and pledged to try vegan this January, breaking all past Veganuary records! 🎯⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Why stop there! The more people that try vegan this January, the more animals that we can save and the greater impact we’ll have on our planet! There’s still time to sign up for #Veganuary2020, it’s free! 👉 www.veganuary.com/register or click the link in our bio!⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Thank you so much to everyone who has supported us – we are so excited for the month ahead. The future is vegan!⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ ⠀⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ .⠀⁠⠀ .⠀⁠⠀ .⁠⠀ #Veganuary #Veganuary2020⁠⠀ #Vegan #Vegans #PlantBased #CrueltyFree #VeganForLife #VeganAF #VeganMovement #VegansOfInstagram #VeganLife #VeganLifestyle #VeganForTheAnimals #VeganForHealth #VeganForThePlanet #VeganForTheEnvironment #VeganForEverything ⁠⠀ #GoVegan #TryVegan ⁠⠀ #VeganShare #VegansOfIg⁠⠀ #VeganWorld #VeganNews⁠⠀ #RecordBreakers #RecordBreaking

A post shared by Veganuary (@weareveganuary) on

The failure

I was nerding it out at Sainsbury’s, desperate for some vegan sweet treats. At the Free From section (which I’m aware is more coeliac-friendly), I found some pecan pies that were incidentally dairy-free.

I live for pecans. And I found vegan pecan pies. Needless to say, I was nutting (pun unintended).

Anyway, a few days later, I was relishing the last of those tarts and dreaming about how I was going to go into Sainsbury’s the next day and buy another pack. In keeping with my pledge to be more climate-conscious, I checked the box to see how I could recycle it properly. And that’s when it caught my eye. This was a gluten- and dairy-free pecan tart. But it wasn’t vegan, courtesy of that one ingredient listed as a potential allergen in bold caps.

EGGS.

“Naive” is an understatement. I was in a horrible mood for the entire night, and I told my friend about it. And it occurred to me: when you’re making lifestyle changes, support is paramount. Like she told me, after mocking me about it for the fifteenth time: “You should be able to laugh about it!”

She’s right. And so I carried on.

A few days later, however, a mishap (that I wasn’t responsible for) at work meant I’d accidentally consumed a vegan burger, with a very non-vegan brioche bun. If you can’t laugh about it…

Falafel Burger
The falafel burger with the sinful brioche bun. Photo: Anay Mridul

The home stretch

Those two bumps in the road meant I technically failed Veganuary. But it’s the end of the month, and I feel much better about myself and my part in helping the environment. I’ve got a long way to go still, but it’s a start. I’ve decided I’m going to try and continue being vegan.

It’s been a trek at times. I’ve wondered if my increased appetite was merely a mask for an unbalanced diet. I’ve fallen off the wagon a couple of times. And yet, it wasn’t as big a struggle as I thought it would be.

You don’t need a designated month to try and go vegan. Yes, it’s probably harder for meat-eaters to switch, but every little bit counts. Going all in right from the get-go and quitting meat cold turkey (again, no pun intended) is tough, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

And who knows? Little by little, you may get to a point where you never yearn for meat or dairy at all. As a lifelong vegetarian, I still haven’t fully stopped craving for the latter.

But I’m getting there.

Continue Reading